Blue Jays: The value of a player who wants to stay in Toronto
While rumours continue to swirl about a potential trade of Marcus Stroman, the 27 year old has made it clear he’d like to stay in Toronto. There is tremendous value in that, and the Blue Jays would be foolish to dismiss it.
When the first rumours came out about Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez being discussed on the trade market, I assumed it wasn’t much more than other teams asking and looking for a bargain, or maybe Blue Jays’ GM Ross Atkins gauging their perceived value this winter. However, the more the topic continues to come up, the more it appears that there could be some fire behind the smoke.
The latest rumour has the Blue Jays discussing a Stroman trade with the San Diego Padres, who admittedly have one of the more talented minor league systems in baseball. Just as he’s done in response to other rumours, the five-year Blue Jay took to Twitter to let fans know that he thinks “rumors are a waste”, and kept up his consistent praise of living in Canada and playing in Toronto, also calling the Rogers Centre his “second home”.
Whenever the topic has come up in interviews with Stroman, or indirectly on social media, he has consistently delivered the same message of being committed to the team, and genuinely appreciating the city of Toronto and playing for the only team in Canada. He’s found a lot of brand value off the field as well, and has been around for some of the better seasons of the last couple decades, so he knows what the Rogers Centre can be like when the team is winning.
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As much as I hate to admit it, that sentiment isn’t shared by every player across Major League Baseball. Yes, there are plenty of veterans who have played in Toronto and appreciate the things that Stroman is talking about and more, but there are also some negative perceptions when it comes to convincing free agents to come north. To be fair, there are elements like playing in the vaunted AL East, or the fact that the Rogers Centre is one of the few stadiums in the league that still utilizes turf, but that’s not all that’s keeping some veterans from seriously considering signing in Toronto.
Ultimately the two biggest factors are a winning team and a significant financial offer, so it’s not as if the Blue Jays can’t attract the free agents they want, but I think it’s fair to say they’re at a bit of a disadvantage if you were to compare them to historic franchises like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, or Cubs to name a few.
One thing I have always appreciated about Stroman is the fact that he genuinely sees the value of being a part of the Blue Jays, even now and despite the fact that they’re about to embark on a rebuild. He’s smart enough to see the talent on the way in the minor league pipeline, and he knows that he’s plenty young enough to be a part of the core of the next generation of this team, if the front office wants to keep him around that is.
Personally, I believe in Stroman’s talent for the short and long term future, and I’d hate to see the team deal him right now, even if we’re purely looking only at his performance potential. However, I also believe there is significant additional value in the passion that Stroman displays for this team, and for the country of Canada. We saw it with guys like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in recent seasons, and in a way they passed that torch to Stroman before they left, especially in Bautista’s case.
Perhaps Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro would like to wipe the slate clean from the Alex Anthopoulos era and have leadership come from somewhere within their young core on the way rather than from someone like Stroman. There are some folks that are rubbed the wrong way by his personality, but I hardly think that’s reason to worry about his influence on the young players, as suggested by a tweet from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. Admittedly I’m not in the clubhouse to see things first hand, but I have a hard time believing that things have ever been that bad.
The way I see it, the fact that Stroman genuinely wants to stick around is a huge plus, and to me is more of a reason to explore an extension rather than a trade. If they get blown away with a trade offer, fine, but I don’t think that’s going to happen when he’s coming off an injury riddled season that saw him pitch to a 5.54 ERA in 19 starts either. Even if they are intent on trading him, I have a hard time believing they would get peak value now, and Atkins already badly missed that boat by bungling the Josh Donaldson situation last year. At one time, the “Bringer of Rain” had wanted to stick around in Toronto too.
Maybe free agents will flock to Toronto during the era of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and the many other talented youngsters on the way, but as long as the Red Sox and Yankees are as deeply talented as they are set up to be for the foreseeable future, there are no guarantees for the Blue Jays even if their minor leaguers turn into perennial All-Stars. And if Stroman has a true impact on the mindset of the next generation in Toronto, hopefully it’ll be an appreciation for wearing the Blue Jays’ jersey, and playing in Canada.
As I said above, I hate to admit it, but not everyone around the game believes that to be the case. We’ll see how this all plays out, but I think the Blue Jays would be foolish to discount the value of Stroman’s commitment.